Special Events

Fair or Fowl?

Thursday, The Heyman Center

Dr. Fields explored the ways in which Classical Greek and Roman
writers used birds to think about human political actions or institutions.
One such topic addressed in the lecture was the distinction
between human justice and the law of the jungle, as both
established and questioned by Hesiod’s “Fable of the Hawk and
Nightingale.” A related question in Hesiod, as well as in Imperial
Greek sources, is whether kings are required to be just—a question
raised in the depiction of the characters of rapacious winged sovereigns,
who may or may not represent Roman Emperors. Birds
also serve in ancient writings to embody both the ideal of freedom
and its valuation, as we can see from reports of suicidal caged
birds that simply could not bear to live in captivity. Yet, while some
authors use speaking birds as a symbol of freedom, others call
avian speech mere sycophantic mimicry. Dr. Fields’s presentation
raised questions not only about the place of animals in ancient
thought, but also about the function of metaphorical or otherwise
indirect expression in political discourse.